How to Plan the Perfect Girls Weekend in San Diego

One of the most popular vacation destinations along the West Coast of the United States is San Diego, which has a lot to offer travelers.

Expansive beaches, a vibrant downtown, and world-class zoos and theme parks make America’s finest city a perfect fit for almost everyone, from singles to families alike (but, we’re here to talk about planning the perfect girls weekend in San Diego).

As the saying goes, girls just want to have fun and there is no better place for a fun-filled girls weekend than San Diego!

Trust me, I know – I live here.

There are countless San Diego hotels, spas, nightclubs and restaurants to keep women entertained. From the fresh-out-of-college crowd to seasoned cougars ready to pounce, San Diego has a scene for us all so, leave the boys behind and head to San Diego for a vacation you’ll hardly remember, but never forget!

Here’s how to spend the best girls weekend in San Diego!

Girls weekend in San Diego
San Diego pier

How to Plan the Perfect Girls Weekend in San Diego

Planning the perfect weekend in San Diego includes knowing where to stay and what to plan into your itinerary. We got a few great recommendations for you.

If you’re going to be flying in, check out these California airports.

Book the Ultimate San Diego Resort

The Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa encapsulates everything that we love about San Diego. It has a stunning location on Mission Bay putting guests within steps of the water and boardwalk as well as just a few minutes from the Gaslamp Quarter and beaches of Pacific and Mission Beach.

For single women looking for a little vacation romance, this location is ideal. Pacific Beach has a just-out-of-college bar scene with dive bars, nightclubs, and plenty of restaurants along Garnet Avenue whereas the Gaslamp Quarter caters to all ages with lounges, music venues, bars, and dancing.

If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation in San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa has a full service spa with massages and facials, a beautiful waterfront pool, an onsite restaurant, and offers an array of activities from tennis to sailing.

Book here.

Enjoy a Cocktail with a View

What’s a girls weekend in San Diego without a few cocktails?

Altitude Sky Lounge is a swanky cocktail lounge located on the 22nd floor of the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. Day or night, this location is unforgettable with a birds-eye view of Petco Park, the San Diego Bay, Coronado Bridge and the entire Gaslamp Quarter.

Altitude Sky Lounge is perfect for a happy hour cocktail before a fun night out downtown or a late night stop after dancing it up at the local clubs. Complete with a modern appeal, firepits, flashy decor, and beautiful patrons, it doesn’t get better than Altitude Sky Lounge in San Diego.

Grab a Bite with the Gals

It’s rare to ask a group of young San Diego locals where their favorite place to eat is and hear no mention of Cucina Urbana. This trendy Italian bistro has California flare, reasonable prices, out of this world food, an extensive wine list and over the top hipster decor.

Open for lunch, dinner, and happy hour, Cucina Urbana in Banker’s Hill is a thriving hotspot attracting locals and visitors from all over town. This favorite San Diego restaurant also offers wine tastings on Saturday afternoons.

Shop ’til You Drop

San Diego has every kind of shopping imaginable from boutique shopping and organic farmer’s markets to outlet centers and massive shopping malls. My personal favorite mall is Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. This outdoor shopping mall has well-known upscale stores, an ice-skating rink during winter and is located next door to the Gaslamp Quarter. I also love the Carlsbad Premium Outlet Center in North County where you can find incredible deals on high-end brand names like BCBG, BEBE, Banana Republic, and Sephora.

Check out Balboa Park

San Diego’s Balboa Park is the United State’s largest urban cultural park. You’ll find numerous affordable and even free things to do in Balboa Park! Check out our guide on free things to do in Balboa Park.

Free things to do in Balboa Park, San Diego
Free things to do in Balboa Park, San Diego

Don’t miss Casa Guadalajara, Old Town San Diego for great Mexican Cuisine

Old Town San Diego is considered the “birthplace” of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. His mission was built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego.

At the base of the hill in 1820’s, a small Mexican community of adobe buildings was formed and by 1835 had attained the status of El Pueblo de San Diego. In 1846, a U.S. Navy Lieutenant and a Marine Lieutenant, raised the American flag in the Old Town San Diego Plaza. 

Bazaar Del Mundo Shops are what you will see first when you get to the corner of that street. Garish Latin-themed gift stores, operate this Mexican restaurant situated a block away from Old Town State Historic Park. Not only is Casa Guadalajara better than what you’ll find along that area, it’s often less crowded than its counterparts (though having to wait for half an hour or more is not unusual on a Fri & Sat night). Mariachi tunes played by strolling musicians enliven the room nightly, and you can also dine alfresco, in a picturesque courtyard occupied by a 200-year-old pepper tree.

Birdbath-size margaritas start most meals, while dining ranges from simple south-of-the-border fare to more gourmet items like tequila lime shrimp and mango chipotle chicken — but the extensive menu features all the fajita and combo plates most people expect.

Begin with an appetizer or three, especially the nachos supreme done with crispy blue corn, yellow corn and chipotle tortilla chips and the special nacho sauce; the chipotle chicken taquitos and some of the best guacamole dip in town. You can order tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales and chili relleno a la carte, but the combinations served with rice and beans and specialty dishes lure you to Casa Guadalajara. Breakfast is also served on weekends.

This place (like the Bazaar) is touristy, but out-of-towners looking for old California ambience and reliable Mexican food will find it here. First time all week, we had respectably HOT and SPICY chili and so I was pretty happy with the meal! However, Mexican is rather heavy and I doubt that this would be the kind of cuisine I would look for on a regular basis! A nice experience all in all!

Visit the San Diego Beaches: What you Need to Know

In the summer, it seems like the entire world flocks to the San Diego beaches for fun in the sun, so here are a few tips to make your experience a little better.

June Gloom

Most vacationers arrive expecting a bright summer sun at the beach all the time. However, at the beaches in San Diego, that is not always the case. June Gloom is a Southern Californian expression for the low clouds that hand over beach areas in late spring and early summer. June Gloom can carry on well into July and, on occasions, even into August. May Gray, No Sky July, and Fogust are monikers that San Diego residents are very familiar with.  

It can be maddening for those who booked a beach vacation who only see the sun for one day out of their whole trip. To avoid this, as best you can, schedule your trip in mid to late August or early September.

The Stingray Shuffle

If you frequent San Diego’s beaches in the summer months, you will most likely hear someone mention the “Stingray Shuffle”.

Stingrays love to hang out in warm, shallow water and, when stepped on, deliver a painful sting to ankles or feet. Unless you want to spend your day at the lifeguard tower in immense pain with your foot in a bucket of hot water, you need to learn the dance.

Shuffle your feet when entering or exiting the water to alert the rays that there are people near by.

No Alcohol on Beaches

Yes, it’s true. There is a ban on alcohol consumption on the beach in San Diego, punishable by a $250 fine.

More than likely, however, lifeguards will simply force you to empty out any alcoholic beverages the first time they catch you. Also prohibited are smoking, glass containers, littering, and overnight camping.

No matter what kind of girl you are and what kind of vacation you’re looking for, San Diego has it all.

For young women looking for a wild time to moms looking for a break from the kids, San Diego has natural beauty, luxurious hotels, great restaurants and fun nightlife to satisfy even the weariest of travelers.

We hope you enjoy the perfect girls weekend in San Diego!

Looking for more girls weekend trips? Check out these guides:


A Beautiful Weekend in Oxford, England

Looking for somewhere new to spend in a weekend at in the UK?

How about a fun weekend in Oxford? It’s an ideal weekend getaway from London – easily accessed by catching the X90 bus from London Victoria to the city of Oxford in OxfordshireEngland.

I did this recently with my sister and we had a really fun and interesting weekend in Oxford, exploring this beautiful and historic university city.

Weekend in Oxford, England
A Beautiful Weekend in Oxford, England

The start of a weekend in Oxford: Arriving on a Friday evening

We arrived at about 9.30pm and checked into the Best Western Linton Lodge, a lovely Edwardian style hotel about 20 minutes outside of the city centre. Wanting the make the most of our first night, we dropped off our bags quickly and headed to the Natural History Museum for a special night time ‘Museums at Night’ event. It was lovely seeing the displays at night, and I particularly liked the life sized animal displays. Only issue was, the museum ran out of booze! What an atrocity!

Just joking, we were actually secretly pleased, because it meant that we could wake up on Saturday as fresh as daisy’s.

How to spend a Saturday in Oxford

On Saturday we had a big day planned for sightseeing, and we decided to take the scenic route into town along the river and university parks. It was absolutely beautiful, but BEWARE – ballet shoes are NOT appropriate for nature walks – particularly when it has recently rained!

Arriving into town with muddy feet, but relatively unharmed, we bought some sensible shoes and started exploring a few of the museums around town.

The museums in Oxford came highly recommended, and you can see why – the city is extremely cultural, educational and historic. My favourite would have to be the Ashmolean – I love ancient history, and the Egyptian section was super impressive! I had never seen a real mummy before, and it was amazing! 

After the Ashmolean and the Science Museum, we visited the Covered Markets, which have been around since the 18th Century! There were many lovely little stores and food shops, and we sampled one of the BEST freshly baked chocolate chip cookies from a little shop called Bens!

We also watched saw some seriously skilled bakers making some extraordinary looking cakes…all so intricate and detailed. I felt very untalented watching these crafty cake-makers, I must say!

Do an Oxford city walking tour

After a quick lunch break, we joined the City Walking Tour from the Visitors Centre, and it was definitely a must-do in Oxford. We learned a lot from this tour – most importantly, how influential the University has been in the past, and also in the present.

To be honest, I ‘made an ass out of u and me’ and assumed that Oxford University would be one large campus, but actually the Uni is scattered all over the city in seperate colleges. We were allowed into the Keble College, and our guide Monica told us all about student life (past and present).

We even had a peek into the dining hall, which is apparently the cheapest place for the students to dine, and looked exactly like the hall in Harry Potter!

Exhausted from all the walking, we returned back to our comfy beds at the Linton and had a little nap before heading out to Cowley Street for dinner. We went to a place I found online called Door 74 (it’s unfortunately closed down) and enjoyed a delicious meal, washed down by some Pinot Grigio. I had the lamb which was delish, but my favourite part would have to be the dark chocolate semifreddo for dessert – such delicious goo!

We met an old friend at a couple of funky Middle Eastern bars before heading home to the 24-hour hotel bar before midnight. 

Perfect first day, with perfect company!

Oxford University, UK
Oxford University, UK

Sunday: How to finish off a weekend in Oxford

We woke up at about 9am on Sunday and headed down to the hot buffet at the Linton Lodge.

The breakfast was just what we needed to start another big day of sightseeing (I love a good hash brown on a Sunday morning!). 

The Linton is located about a 20 minute walk out of the main town, and it’s perfectly enjoyable to stroll past the museums, colleges and student housing. If you’re not up for the walk however, it only £5.50 in a cab – bargain!

A tour of the Oxford Castle

We walked into the city after breakfast and enjoyed some fresh air before checking out Oxford Castle. The site was once home to the Norman Oxford Castle, and then the infamous Oxford Prison since the 11th Century.

We did the ‘Oxford Castle Unlocked’ tour, and were escorted around by ‘Mary Blandy’ – a prisoner that I personally believe was wrongly accused of killing her father. She told us all about the history of the prison, and let me tell you – English people were BRUTAL back in the day! Thank goodness I wasn’t an everyday person in debt  during these times, that’s all I can say!

Exploring Blenheim Palace

After the tour, we caught the S3 bus to Blenheim Palace. Like the X90, we found all the Oxford buses to be really regular. We jumped straight on, and travelled for about 15 minutes through the countryside to the famous Palace.

It was a toss up between Blenheim and the walking tour, but I have to say that this was my favourite part of the weekend. The Palace is HUGE and full of history, most noteable being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The ticket includes entry into the palace and access to all the surrounding gardens. You could spend a whole day exploring.

Since I have arrived in London, the countryside surrounding Blenheim Palace is the most beautiful that I have seen in England.

The Palace is surrounded by rolling hills, lakes and 2000 acres of beautiful parkland. Ange and I took a long walk from the formal gardens, past the Italian Garden and eventually came to a beautiful cascading waterfall. We even managed to see some bunny rabbits on the way! How English is that?

Blenheim Palace in Oxford, UK
Blenheim Palace in Oxford

On that note, did you know that the real Alice from Alice in Wonderland was from Oxford?

After taking about a zillion photos at Blenheim, we headed back to town and spent our last hour eating lunch and drinking a pint at the Eagle and Child (also known as the ‘Bird and Baby’) pub, near the town centre. The pub was a famous meeting point for the ‘Inklings’ – a Oxford writers group that included C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien! It was amazing to think about those men writing such famous novels in that very pub.

The history in Oxford was just amazing. We were very sad to leave on Sunday. What a fantastic place!

I would recommend going for longer than one weekend, because there is just so much to see. But if you have limited time, you can squeeze it all in, just like we did.


Graz street and square

Enjoy a Sustainable Weekend in Graz

 

If you’ve never heard of the city of Graz, Austria before, it is because Graz truly is one of Europe’s last hidden gems.

Situated in the south-east of Austria, Graz offers the perfect escape for those longing to escape overwhelming tourist crowds and fast travel.

Here are some tips on how to spend an enjoyable and sustainable weekend in Graz:

Friday: First Impressions

After arriving at your hotel (for example the newly refurbished Grand Hotel Wiesler), you can use the last hours of the day to gather some first impressions of the city. Head over to the Graz Tourist office, located in the city center, to pick up your town map as well as some useful insider tips. While you’re there, you can also consider investing in BACKUP, a reusable coffee cup, perfect for a guilt-free sip of espresso on the go. You can either keep it as a functional souvenir of your time in Graz, or return the cup to any of the 60+ participating cafes in the city.

Schlossberg

Once you are equipped, it is time to get a real feel for the city. And what better way to do so than by getting a bird’s eye view? Once the home to an impressive castle, Schlossberg has been the heart of the city for hundreds of years. Although the castle fell during the Napoleonic wars, the people of Graz never lost their love for this lush green oasis with a view.

There are several ways of getting to the top and each offers a unique experience in their own way. You can either take the ever-popular Schlossberg steps from the base of the mountain at Schlossbergplatz, or, if you’re tired, opt for the funicular or the lift instead. And who wouldn’t want to take an elevator through the middle of a mountain?

At the top, you can take a stroll along the cobble-stoned paths, seek out hidden corners, and, of course, marvel at the impressive clock tower. And if you feel that you are losing track of time, it may be because you are losing yourself in the beauty of the place, but if you take a closer look, perhaps it’s just because the hands on the clock tower are actually reversed.

End your day with a stunning view of the red rooftops of the city with a glass of crisp south-Styrian wine at the sky bar of the Schlossberg restaurant or Aiola Upstairs.

PS: If you’re up for a kick of adrenaline, take the Schlossberg slide on your way down!

Saturday: Hip, Green, And Trendy

One of the best things to do in Graz during the warmer months is to enjoy its ample green spaces and explore some of the city’s most trendy neighborhoods, Lend and Gries.

Farmers’ Markets

Start your day early and head to one of the numerous farmers’ markets in the city. Here, you can shop for fresh regional and seasonal produce while supporting the local economy where it matters most. On average, the fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, and other products are produced within just 20km of the city. The markets are very popular among the locals, so do be sure to come early or everything will be sold out!

One of the best farmer’s markets in Graz is located on Lendplatz. While you’re here, you can also sit down at one of the many hip cafes in the area and enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. Lenz im Lend is the perfect address for coffee during your market visit.

Tip: If you ever get thirsty along your way, keep an eye open for places with a ‘Refill Austria’ sticker on the door. Here, you can fill up your water bottle with tap water for free and avoid buying plastic bottles along the way.

Sustainable Shopping

Continuing on your adventure in Lend, you will come across a number of smaller, boutique-style shops in the area. The Lend district is known for its quirky art scene. Graz is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and was named the first City of Design in Austria. As a result, numerous design shops have settled here throughout the last years. Two of the best known are Offline and Tag.Werk.

Offline primarily employs individuals struggling with addiction. The goal of the project is to offer entry-level employment to ease the return of addicts or former addicts into the labor market. In the shop, you can find second-hand clothing, as well as various up-cycled items ranging from accessories to furniture.

Tag.Werk offers employment to underprivileged youth. In the shop, you can primarily find bags and backpacks made from up-cycled materials which makes each piece unique.

Funky Architecture

Returning to the city center, you will come across several quirky structures, such as the Murinsel (island in the Mur) and Kunsthaus (modern art museum). Both were conceptualized in 2003, when Graz was the European Capital of Culture. They offer a stark contrast to the traditional architecture found within the old town of Graz and dazzle the eye with pops of color, especially during the night.

Kunsthaus, also dubbed the ‘Friendly alien’ due to its biomorphic blue shape, is home to ever-changing exhibitions dedicated to modern art, starting from 1960. The exhibitions offer a good mix of Austrian and foreign artists and are sure to leave you inspired after your visit. The museum is also home to one of the best design shops in the city and well worth popping in your head for. If you’re in dire need of a break, the Kunsthauscafe is one of the most popular and trendy cafes in Graz.

Multicultural Flair

Continuing on on the banks of the river Mur, quite literally the pulsing artery of the city, you leave the funky yet glitzy Lend district and enter into Gries. Once known only for its red-light district, Gries has developed significantly over the last couple of decades. It still retains much of its grungy edges yet introduces a much-needed breath of multicultural flair into the city.

Today, Gries is home to a multitude of Asian, Middle-Eastern, and African shops as well as cafes and restaurants. Before World War II it was also home to a large proportion of the Jewish community in Graz. At the location of a previous synagogue which was destroyed during the November pogroms in 1938, you now find a modern structure with a glass dome in its place.

Keep your eyes open for street art as you make your way south. Several intriguing pieces are hidden in the small paths and alleyways in the area!

Augarten

From the synagogue, cross onto the other side of the Mur river. Here, you will find the newly reopened Augarten, one of the city’s most important green spaces. It offers a welcome reprieve from the heat during the hot summer months. The river brings a cool breeze and the trees offer plenty of shade. Benches and lounge chairs invite you to stay and have a picnic with friends.

On the edge of the park, you can also find a little cafe, Paulschlössl. It is one of several so-called ReUse cafes in Graz. The cafe offers employment to those disadvantaged in the labor market, be it due to age, health, or a lack of qualifications. The goods are sourced seasonally and regionally and most of the interior is made up of up-cycled materials.

Styrian Cuisine

End your day by enjoying some typically Styrian cuisine. The best address for classic yet elevated dishes is Der Steirer. Found at the location of a former wine bar run by Hans Weitzer, this restaurant embodies the Austrian concept of “Gemütlichkeit”, or coziness. True to its heritage, the restaurant offers a nearly endless supply of wine along with a delicious selection of Austrian dishes. You can either taste yourself through the menu with their Styrian tapas, or keep it simple by ordering a traditional Styrian Backhendl (fried chicken). No matter which way you decide, you’ll be sure to finish your day on a high note.

Sunday: Historic Old Town

Sunday is the perfect day to explore the city’s historic old town as well as some of its excellent museums. While you’re here, be sure to make use of the free tram connection between Jakominiplatz and Südtirolerplatz or Jakominiplatz and Schlossbergplatz.

Stroll through the historic old town

Graz’s biggest draw is obviously its gorgeous and well-preserved medieval center, one of the best-preserved medieval centers in Europe. As you take a stroll through Graz’s UNESCO-protected center, you will encounter an array of elegant palaces and townhouses which bear proof to the city’s Baroque heyday.

Start your tour at the city’s main square, Hauptplatz, and take a moment to marvel at the impressive city hall. Then, make your way uphill through Sporgasse and let the cobblestones take you to some of the city’s most imposing squares, Karmeliterplatz and Freiheitsplatz.

Pass the Graz castle and get dizzy on its double spiral staircase, get dazzled by the elaborate tomb of Emperor Ferdinand II. Take a short breather in the castle park (Burggarten) or the city’s main park (Stadtpark) below. Don’t miss the beautiful opera house as well as the city’s own version of the Statue of Liberty on your way back. Head down Graz’s premier shopping street, Herrengasse, and enjoy the intricate facades. It is also the location of one of the city’s most memorable buildings, the painted house.

Enjoy Mediterranean flair

On the way, you will pass the Landhaushof, one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Graz. The whole of the inner city has an Italian Renaissance overlay to it, lending Graz a very Mediterranean feel, unlike any other Austrian city.

Once you return to Hauptplatz, navigate through some of the narrow alleyways on its western edge to reach the Franziskanerviertel. Have a seat at one of the many street-side cafes and enjoy a glass of Aperol Spritz for a feel of Italy in Austria.

A visit to the Styrian Armory

When spending a weekend in Graz, a visit to the Styrian Armory is a must. With more than 30,000 items on display, the Styrian Armory is the largest preserved arsenal in the world. Built as a stock of arms to be handed to the local population in the event of a Turkish attack, the rich collection includes suits of armor, helmets, breastplates, swords, firearms, and cannons.

Besides the Styrian Armory, there are a number of other museums in Graz that are well-worth visiting. Some of these are Graz Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the New Gallery.

Hearty Austrian dinner

To round off your visit to Graz, head to Glockenspielplatz for your dinner. At 6 o’clock PM you will find two figurines dancing up in the gable of one of the buildings. Clothed in traditional costumes, they sway to three different tunes played by 24 bells.

In the same building as the Glockenspiel, you will find Glöcklbräu, one of the most popular restaurants among locals and visitors alike. Finish your weekend in Graz with a hearty portion of Spätzle or a traditional serving of Schnitzel, washed down with a tall glass of beer.